Monday, December 27, 2010


I cannot believe that I am going to post this because my father (the safety engineer) is going to think that his daughter learned nothing from his training. Sorry, Dad! We really blew it this time, and by God's grace, I am living to write about it. And yes, we learned our lesson.

David made it clear to us that he did not want to be driving in the dark on the narrow twisty turny roads up into the alps in questionable weather; thus, he mandated that we would begin our 6 hour trek at 9 a.m. Given all resources (GPS, google maps, and our experience in traveling the bulk of this route in the past) our estimated time of arrival, with stops for lunch, etc, would be 4 p.m.--an hour before sunset. We packed early in the morning and left our apartment right on schedule.

Les Vacances in France are revered and highly celebrated. We knew that. What we did not know is that the number of vehicles on the road the day after Christmas would cause slowing and intermittent stopping along the auto route. As we saw the clock tick towards 4 p.m., we realized that we were not going to get to our Gite before dark. In retrospect, that is the moment that I should have called the Gite owner, explained our delay, and asked her to hold our space, but not expect us until the following morning. And then I should have called a hotel down in the valley or made some other plans for the night. This morning we all agreed that THAT is what we should have done. Hind sight. 20/20.

Instead, I called the Gite owner, told her that we would be arriving late, and we forged on ahead. At the foot of the mountain at 7 p.m., we stopped for some groceries, called the Gite owner again, and estimated an arrival time of 8 p.m. She inquired about our journey, asked if perhaps we had had car trouble, and I explained that it was simply vacation traffic that had slowed us down.

Then, at 7 p.m., in the pitch black of night, with no street lights, we began our ascent up the mountain. We had not eaten since lunch, we were exhausted from our journey thus far, and we had no business attempting such a feat. In our defense, at that point we did not yet know exactly what we would face ahead.

About halfway up the mountain, we discovered the roads were covered with frozen snow and ice. The best pavement was found dead center of the two-lane road, so we drove in the middle and prayed we would not meet any on-coming traffic. The road was literally carved out of the side of the mountain, and we were not sure if was better or worse that we could not see the cliffs to which we clung. When we passed a car that appeared stuck, we began to wonder if we should turn back. The problem was, the icy road was so narrow that there was not enough room to turn the car around. So we trudged ahead in first gear.

At this point Chandler was praying silently with his eyes tightly shut, and Graham and I had been forbidden to speak. It seems my gasping and his doomsday proclamations were not helping our fearless (okay TOTALLY FREAKED OUT) driver. As we rounded yet another hairpin turn, our GPS noted that we were 1.4 km from our destination. Feeling hopeful, David slowed down to let a truck pass, and first gear couldn't hold on. The car died.

The motor easily roared back to life, but the tires were unable to produce any forward motion. Putting the car in reverse, David slowly backed (BACKED!) the car 250 feet around the turn to a flatter area where we could get some traction. Did I mention the ICE? How about the CLIFFS? And the total LACK of light? (I know, Dad. I am really sorry!)

Once again in first gear, we made a run. Once again we hit ice and killed the car. Once again we backed down. David decided to make one more attempt up, and then, if that didn't work, he would figure out how to turn around and go back down the mountain. We prayed. We prayed like we have never prayed before. And slowly, slowly we made it past the slick spot and up to our Gite. Alive.

David is the safest driver I know, but even he agrees that we should NEVER have started up that mountain in the dark in winter. And we will never do it again. But I will say that it was one car trip this family will not forget.

I took this photo as we drove back down this morning, just to give you an idea of the road we were on last night.

This is the little village of Besse.

And here is a picture in our Gite.

Tomorrow, we will ski.


  1. Sometimes not everything that we planned out are going along smoothly... but its a good thing that you learn a lot on that trip..

    Happy Holidays and skiing sure is fun...

    Tealight Candles

  2. "Graham and I had been forbidden to speak" - hahaha. I am SO GLAD you guys made it!!! What a crazy adventure - definitely the stuff memories are made of! :)

  3. Praising God for his tender care as you made your way up that road! Thankful that the holiday "perfect storm" of events was overcome and you can now relax together. We love you 4--

  4. Amen to what Becky wrote... and here is a hug {{{bug hug}}}. If I could give you chocolate, I would!

  5. LOVE YOU ALL! alive! Glad you made it! Have a lovely vacation!

  6. Well the photos are lovely and we will enjoy your collective presence on earth for yet awhile longer.. God left you here for my sake....and her sake...and his sake...and their sake...and it is wonderful to glorify Him through you and your prayers.